by Jordan Green

Business voices for public investment

Progressivism comes in two stripes: The school of thinking that emphasizes investment in infrastructure and education so that business may flourish, and the broad left umbrella that encompasses labor, civil rights and civil libertarian constituencies. During the recent debate over trimming public budgets and sustaining services, the two schools of thought have seemed to move closer towards one another, as conservative politicians push for deeper cuts. Evidence of this is Executive Editor Justin Catanoso’s dialogue with NC Sen. Pete Brunstetter (R-Forsyth) in the Feb. 25 issue of The Business Journal on the topic of tax reform. Brunstetter tells Catanoso that the Republican General Assembly will consider extending taxes to services not currently impacted, but cautions, “This isn’t about grabbing for more revenue.”

Catanoso begs to differ: “Actually, it is. The state simply must generate more revenue than it does now — unless we want to continue laying off public school teachers and college professors while letting our roads and bridges decay. It’s important to remember that those current realities are far worse for business than a revamped tax code which would spread the levies more widely and fairly.”

Catanoso also quotes approving statements by Greensboro Partnership CEO Pat Danahy and Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce President Gayle Anderson on tax reform, with the latter pointing out that North Carolina’s economy has become more dependent on services over time.

Along the same lines, a guest editorial in the same issue of The Business Journal by economist Andrew Brod comes to the defense of state employees in Wisconsin. “At times the debate has gotten extreme, with some arguing in effect that public employees are leeches on the taxpaying public,” Brod writes. “Insults aside, that misses the larger point. It’s not just about the workers, but the services they provide. Right when we need to invest more than ever in education and our workforce, we’re defunding our schools.”